Robinson v. Erie Ins. Exch. – Uninsured Motorist Coverage for Property Damage Denied

Uninsured motorist coverage was designed for the narrow purpose of ensuring individuals who incur serious injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident can have those costs covered.
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Our Spartanburg car accident attorneys recognize that property damage resulting from crashes can be an enormous drain on one’s finances as well, particularly when the other party lacked insurance and yours isn’t cooperating. However, uninsured motorist coverage is not the way to collect those damages, as the recent case of Robinson v. Erie Ins. Exch. highlighted.

Still, there are other ways to recover property damages, given that South Carolina is an at-fault car insurance state. Minimum liability requirements in this state require any policy have at least $25,000 to cover any damage to a vehicle sustained in a crash. If the damages exceed that amount, you could file a claim with your own carrier, who could in turn seek reimbursement from the driver’s insurer. Alternatively, you could file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in civil court or file a third-party insurance claim.

However, uninsured motorist benefits are not the appropriate remedy. The only exception would be if the insurance policy explicitly states that such coverage is available.

In the Robinson case, before the Indiana Supreme Court, the insured’s teen son was alone driving his vehicle when a Jeep ran a red light and struck his vehicle. While the teen amazingly suffered no personal injuries, the crash totaled the vehicle. The driver of the Jeep fled the scene, and neither the driver nor owner of the Jeep were ever known.

The family auto insurance policy that the insured had covered both bodily injury, property damage, medical payments, and uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. It did not offer comprehensive or collision coverage.

Per the uninsured motorist coverage clause of the policy, in order to collect, the insured (or those named on the policY0 had to have suffered bodily injury. The policy specifically excludes coverage for property damage.

While the parties in the case don’t dispute the case met most of the criteria for coverage, the fact that the teen had not been injured meant that coverage could not be provided, the insurer insisted.

The plaintiffs pointed to an earlier case law in which partial coverage for plaintiff’s property damage was provided. However, the high court noted the significantly different language in the two insurance policies.

Ultimately, the state supreme court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in affirming denial of uninsured motorist coverage for property damage to the plaintiffs.

Given the fact that traffic safety officials are increasingly reporting hit-and-run crashes as a problem, it’s important that all drivers have a strong sense of what their policies cover, and what they don’t.

In the event of a crash – whether there are injuries or not – it’s important to discuss your concerns and options with an attorney who is familiar with the law and your rights.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Robinson v. Erie Ins. Exch., June 10, 2014, Indiana Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Kahihu v. Brunson – NC Car Accident Victim Loses Appeal of Directed Verdict for Insurer, June 6, 2014, Spartangburg Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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